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Wisconsin, the Big Ten's last hope of a playoff team

Wisconsin, the Big Ten's last hope of a playoff team”

Penn State is coming off a split series against Mercyhurst at home last weekend. However, last year marked the third straight year that a Big Ten team failed to reach the Final Four. Haas becoming a bigger factor on offense (and avoiding foul trouble) will be key to the Boilermakers producing at the same level as last season when they went 27-8 and advanced to the Sweet 16. Their strength of schedule will improve, with No. 20 Iowa and a 7-2 MI squad visiting Camp Randall Stadium, and the Big Ten title game to close.

"It was probably our best performance of the year, thus far", Irish coach Jeff Jackson said of Friday's 4-1 win and Saturday' 3-2 victory over Ohio State.

So while it may be the best conference in the land, there is a realistic possibility the B1G gets left out depending on how things shake out. How will the landscape look after week 11? Anyone wanting to watch this game on the west coast will need a wake-up call (Noon EST kickoff). The Nittany Lions dropped the first game 7-4 and rebounded to take the second, 7-5. I am not going to get sucked into last week's craziness when making this pick. I think both games were anomalies; MSU isn't that good and OSU isn't that bad. The Buckeyes get back on track against Sparty.

Here's the problem with Wisconsin: the Badgers have beaten no one. The other team is Penn State. Rutgers is on a roll!

Bridges will be Michigan State's star, and his return to East Lansing boosted the Spartans' expectations this season, but there's plenty of talent around him, too. And like MI two weeks ago, Penn State will be looking to take out two weeks of losing frustration out on someone. I'm just glad when I see guys like that get rewarded.

First, though, the Badgers must take care of their own business.

Considering all of the close games (or first halves) IN has put together this season, it's odd to see their record at 3-6. Wisconsin will need to focus on tooling balls off of Purdue's block.

Five players have at least 24 carries on the season, and four of those players average at least 5 yards per carry. In the past seven games, they've only allowed one score. Minnesota is bringing back four starters, including senior point guard Nate Mason from its team previous year that earned a 5-seed in the NCAA tournament and Texas A&M transfer Davonte Fitzgerald, who should provide an added scoring punch off the bench.

This weekend will be the first time this season that Tony Granato steps away from the team to fulfill his USA Hockey duties. Both teams want to win the "5 Dollar Bits of Broken Chair" trophy (no, really, it's a thing). "I thought we played a smart game". I'm not going to believe they're going to leave out an undefeated major conference champion until they do. The Terps gutted out a win over IN two weeks ago, only to go on the road and lose at Rutgers. Back-to-back blowouts of Rutgers and Minnesota have been fueled by good, old-fashioned MI football - also known as running the ball and defense.

There are only six regular season conference games remaining, and the badgers now sit at 7-7 in the conference. They still have the formidable perimeter trio of Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law and should benefit from getting back a couple of good players who missed all of last season with injuries - Aaron Falzon and Rapolas Ivanauskas.

It doesn't excuse a team like Ohio State losing by 31 points at Iowa, or Penn State giving up an 18-point lead. Nate Stanley played out of his mind, throwing five touchdown passes. "On the penalty kill he talks to the defenseman a lot". The Badgers are the team, thanks to a soft schedule, you keep expecting to lose at some point.

"Last week was all about focusing on IN and that's all that matters and this week it is Iowa", he said. But remember what I said about last week being an anomaly. The 'Cats clawed their way back against Nebraska and may very well have nine lives.

After Purdue earned a hard-fought regular season title last year, this year is shaping up to be a bit different.

The Illini already have shown some chinks in preseason exhibitions and scrimmages, but new coach Brad Underwood's team should be vastly better at the end of the season than it is right now.



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